East London headteacher is youngest in country to have school rated ‘outstanding’

Thahmina Begum

A 32 year old head teacher in East London is the youngest in the country to have her school rated “outstanding” by education watchdog Ofsted.

Thahmina Begum is head of Forest Gate Community School, a secondary with GCSE results in the country’s top 50, which was inspected by Ofsted on February 26-27 as it was preparing for coronavirus lockdown.

The Ofsted report praised Ms Begum and the senior leadership directly: “You have been headteacher at the school since the start of this academic year but a member of staff for much longer. Your predecessor is now the chief executive officer of the multi-academy trust and works very closely with you.

“You are supported by a skilful leadership team and by effective chairs of the local governing body and trust board. Together you have set a clear strategic direction. This is based on a vision that is ambitious to ensure that all pupils receive a well-rounded, high-quality education.”

The school has achieved its outstanding rating despite being larger than average (with 1,192 pupils on roll), and the proportion of pupils who are eligible for free school meals being higher than the national average. Although pupils represent a range of ethnic groups, close to one third are of Bangladeshi heritage. And far more pupils than the national average speak English as an additional language.

Forest Gate Community School

Ofsted said: “The school’s motto, ‘fly, grow, connect, strive’, underpins all aspects of its work, not least the curriculum. Leaders have designed an ambitious programme that meets pupils’ needs very well. Disadvantaged pupils are challenged to achieve ambitious goals. A sense of social justice prevails in wanting the best for every pupil.

“Most disadvantaged pupils study a wide range of academic subjects and achieve just as well as their peers… By the end of Year 11, Forest Gate pupils achieve exceptionally high outcomes throughout the curriculum, particularly in the English baccalaureate subjects.”

Responding to the report, Thahmina Begum said: “The inspection could not have come at a more difficult time. We knew a lockdown was looming so were planning for school closures. We had staff and students at home self-isolating.

“We also had to plan for remote learning and how to support our most vulnerable students. As this report rightly points out, these are teachers who would run through brick walls for both their colleagues and for the students at this school. They are incredibly passionate, hardworking and caring people but also very, very tough. They are fantastic role models for our students.”

Simon Elliott, CEO of the Community Schools Trust which operates Forest Gate Community School, added: “Even in the most difficult of circumstances, against the backdrop of the worst pandemic for over a century, this group of teachers have proven their extraordinary commitment to our students.

“We are extremely pleased with the report not just because we remain an Outstanding School but because it is validation of the exceptional staff we have working here.”

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